Study Guide

Henry Sachs in You Should Have Known

By Jean Hanff Korelitz

Henry Sachs

The middle school years can be rough, as Henry Sachs knows firsthand. When we first meet Grace and Jonathan's 12-year-old son, he's trying to navigate drama with his former best friend, difficult classes at an expensive private school, and pressure from his mom to pursue a talent he no longer enjoys—typical preteen stuff.

Oh, and his dad is a cheater-cheater-pumpkin-eater, and he's the only other family member who knows it. Henry is clued in to Jonathan's multiple infidelities way before his mom is, although readers don't learn that until Grace does.

As preteen boys are wont to do, Henry doesn't say much throughout the book. However, he does provide readers with their first "Seriously, Grace, how can you be this blind?" moment. He tells her that "Dad said" it's okay for him to quit violin because life's too short to be unhappy. Rather than considering what this seemingly out-of-character assertion means about her husband, Grace decides that Henry must have misunderstood. Excuse us while we throw our copy of this book at the nearest wall.

Henry continues his silence even after they flee to the lake house, occasionally expressing a desire for Ben & Jerry's, a dog, a house that's not freezing, or really any semblance of normalcy in their extremely abnormal circumstances.

He starts to open up a bit more as he gets involved at his new school in Connecticut, which is way more relaxed than Rearden. He reads sports anthologies, tries out for the baseball team, and even finds friends who share his interest in anime—this is news to Grace, but he tells her Jonathan took him to see an anime film a while back.

At the end of the book, Henry finally reveals to Grace that he saw Dad flirting with another doctor years earlier, so when he noticed Jonathan and Malaga chatting it up on the Rearden steps, he knew what was going on. In both cases, Henry caught his dad with his mask down, but Jonathan immediately snapped back into "Dad mode."

These experiences understandably messed with Henry's head. Since his dad acted like everything was normal, Henry didn't feel the need to tell Grace what he saw at the time. However, when they finally do talk about it, he says he feels partially responsible for Malaga's murder because maybe if he had told his mom about Daddy's side chicks earlier, Grace would have been able to stop it. Yeesh. Thankfully, Grace does put a stop to that train of thought, recognizing how important it is for her to say the right thing in that moment.

As a character, Henry brings out Grace's best qualities. Some of her desire to see Henry succeed may come from the "keeping up with the Joneses" mentality that's so pervasive in their social circle, but she does have a fiercely protective maternal instinct. Even when her entire world falls apart, she knows she has to keep pushing forward for Henry's sake. Henry joins Grace on her journey of self-discovery both literally and figuratively, finding new interests and reconnecting with his love for the violin once he has the freedom to so—i.e. when he's not stifled by the overachieving environment at Rearden.

Still, Henry's character development also highlights another potential blind spot for Grace: She so badly wants Henry to be okay that she ignores some major red flags. Jonathan always loved sports, and Henry suddenly develops an interest in sports when he and Grace get to the lake house. He also becomes a passionate anime fan, another interest he developed thanks to Jonathan. Those new hobbies suggest that maybe he's not quite as ready to let go of Jonathan as Grace is by the end of the book, but he seems like a good kid, so we hope he'll soon be as okay as Grace thinks he already is.